VICTORIA - The British Columbia government needs to know more before it decides on an "unprecedented" request to revert to RCMP policing in Surrey in a decision that affects the whole province, the public safety minister said.
Mike Farnworth told media at the B.C. legislature his staff have reviewed submissions from those involved in the ongoing transition to a municipal force, and the director of police services has determined additional information is required.
The policing transition in Surrey is complex, involving the largest RCMP detachment in Canada, and requires an in-depth analysis before a decision is made, he said.
"Surrey made the decision to move to a municipal police force, Surrey’s making a decision to move back to the RCMP. My role as minister is to ensure that there is a proper and safe plan to do that, and that means ensuring safe and adequate and effective policing, not just in Surrey, but in the region and the province."
Farnworth said his staff have been looking at submissions from the City of Surrey, the Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Police Service to identify gaps and determine what's accurate when it comes to details around costs and human resources.
The request for the city and RCMP to provide more information includes questions about the number of employees required to "re-staff" the detachment and around the potential "demobilization" of the municipal force, the minister said.
"I would like to see it done as expeditiously as possible," he said of the analysis.
"But also, it needs to be thorough."
The transition to municipal policing was thrown into disarray by the election of Mayor Brenda Locke last fall, who campaigned on maintaining the RCMP.
Her defeated predecessor, Doug McCallum, had initiated the previous plan to scrap the Mounties.
The new Surrey city council voted in December to send a plan to Farnworth requesting to keep the RCMP, saying that would save $235 million over five years.
The Surrey Police Service followed up with its own report calling on Farnworth to reject that plan, saying halting the transition would mean firing 375 employees, dissolving two police unions and accepting "unrecoverable" costs of $107 million.
Locke responded to Farnworth's announcement Thursday, saying "the province needs to do the right thing and confirm the city has the right to this decision," adding she does not "believe the province's reason to delay its decision is justified."
"The inability to make a timely decision is unfair to (Surrey Police Service) and RCMP officers and their families," Locke said in a statement, adding the timeline for the decision also affects the city's work on its 2023 budget.
Locke said the city and the RCMP each submitted plans that clearly and thoroughly provided "all the necessary details" to demonstrate their ability to keep the Mounties "in a more cost-effective and timely way" than continuing with the municipal force.
It's natural, she said, to want more information as plans are put into effect, but it is "a waste of time to continue to do that work prior to the province's decision."